Online travel agencies have done a great job of delivering flight search results based on price, number of stops and schedule. Meanwhile, passengers feel the pain of late flights, long connecting times, lost bags, old aircraft and other frustrations.The two realities have until now remained in separate silos.
InsideTrip Inc., a new company based in Seattle, is bringing the reality of the travel experience into the booking process, assigning a "TripQuality Rating" to each flight based on 12 "pain points." The beta version of the Web site, InsideTrip.com, launches this week.
David Pelter, chief executive officer of InsideTrip Inc., said "there is a lot of really great information that isn't brought into the booking process. That's largely a function of distribution tools. They tend to be one-dimensional." All of the things that "color the mosaic of the trip" are left out, he said.
Pelter and his team have spent close to a year building and mapping a database of criteria:
- Leg room information of the aircraft for a specific airline on an itinerary.
- Security wait time, based on analysis of TSA airport data such as location of travel, time of day, day of week and airline.
- Aircraft age.
- On-time performance based on the past 62 days of historical trends.
- Connection time.
- Number of stops.
- Flight duration.
- Routing quality (the degree to which an itinerary routing is out of the way).
- Lost luggage track record, based on the Department of Transportation historical trends.
- Airport gate location and whether passengers must use a bus or train to get to a departing or connecting flight.
- Historical airplane passenger loads based on market data from the previous year during the same month and equivalent travel periods.
- Aircraft type.
Users can recalculate the ratings based on whether particular criteria are important to them. A shorter person may not be concerned about flying a regional jet, so aircraft type and/or legroom can be taken out of the equation. And while most business travelers would prefer a relatively short connection time, Pelter noted that when he travels with his toddler, a 20-minute connecting time is too stressful.
Other criteria may be added over time. For example, United Airlines and US Airways recently announced that they will charge $25 each way for checking a second bag. "That is the sort of brand attribute that it makes sense to incorporate down the road," Pelter said. "It's logical to assume that people should be aware of that."
InsideTrip does not have its own booking engine. It is deep-linked in Orbitz.com, so a user who selects a flight is taken directly to that flight within Orbitz. Pelter, who has a background in airline pricing and revenue, said InsideTrip has "reached out to all the airlines," and initial feedback indicates that the airlines are looking for opportunities to differentiate themselves and decommoditize their products.
The default sorting of flights, however, "is always the price," he said. "We're not fooling ourselves. We're just giving you an opportunity to filter things in other ways. You can judge the product in the ways that you want."